Talkin’ Bout My Ment-al Illness

Did you automatically sing that title as “talking bout my Generation”?  That’s what I was aiming for!

I want to talk about Mental Illness today and the meds I take. I’m not ashamed to say I have Bipolar Disorder but I know there is a huge stigma around having a mental illness and talking about it. There are far too many people who grew up believing you should keep things like that hush hush because it would ruin your reputation, and that of your family if you said anything. People were put away in homes and hospitals who were severely mentally ill, or stories were told about “crazy Aunt Gladys” or “weird Uncle Marvin” and you knew you weren’t supposed to either hear them or repeat them.

Things are changing thank God, and I’ve never been afraid to just come out and say “I am Bipolar” in conversation. It’s a part of me, so why would I hide it? It was actually a relief to finally have a diagnosis because then I knew what those manic highs and depressing lows were all about. Do I like the highs and lows? Sometimes. They can be exciting, and energizing and fun. They can also be ugly and messy and scary. But the overall thing about having BD is that it’s uniquely a part of me. Take it away, and I would be so different. Less courageous. Less outgoing. Less interesting. Less, less, less….

One difficult thing about having a mental illness is the issue of being on medications. What you’re trying to do is balance the chemicals in your brain called Serotonins. Finding the right balance is a tricky business and can sometimes take years. I know people who have been on up to 17 different medications at various times, just trying to find the right combo that works for them. I’ve been lucky in that I was put on Seroquel when I was first diagnosed and it worked well for me for a long time.

It wasn’t until late 2016 when I started experiencing the auditory hallucinations  – I could hear music when others couldn’t, and I knew something was going on. I saw a Psychiatrist to rule out any new mental illnesses, and then Dr. Leong recommended the MRI and EEG I’ve talked about in earlier posts. We also decided to switch the Seroquel to something new and that’s when I started taking the Abilify.
I was nervous about taking it at first because of the list of side effects. I am bolding the ones I’ve experienced so far:

Common Abilify side effects may include:
  • weight gain;
  • blurred vision;
  • nausea, vomiting, changes in appetiteconstipation;
  • drooling (mild, at night);
  • a headache, dizzinessdrowsiness, feeling tired;
  • anxiety, feeling restless;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat.

Now, why can’t Drug Manufacturers automatically make a drug with weight LOSS as a side effect??  Why is weight GAIN always the big one listed (haha). Seriously…what are they putting in there…hot dogs?? Milkshakes?  Okay, I’d take it in milkshake form (I LOVE milkshakes!), but I just don’t understand this. It must be a filler of some kind. Then there’s drooling. What the hell kind of side effect is that??? DROOLING??? Who thinks these things up?
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“Hey Ron”
“Yeah Charlie?”
“Do ya think we should make people drool with this one?”
“Oh yeah…we haven’t added that one in a long time. I bet people miss that side effect…yeah, let’s add it”.
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*snork*   Right!  Okay, so now, I’m fat and drooling. How else can we make this attractive? Oh, I know…let’s make me constipated too! And then we’ll make me super tired, but add in insomnia, so I can’t sleep!! Mwaaaahaaahaaahaaahaaaaa

WitchesBrew1

Yeah…that’s about what it feels like. Seriously, I don’t understand why half these side effects are considered acceptable, but we go ahead and take them, because the side effects are worth the overall benefit of the drug itself. And what benefit am I getting from the Abilify? Well for one thing. I have energy again. And an interest in life. I’m not spending 90% of my day sleeping. I’m doing the household chores again. I’m getting together with friends again – socializing. I’m still in chronic pain, but my brain is in such a better place that I’m managing my pain better. Could I go back to work in this condition? No,  not a chance. My pain and fatigue still wipe me out, and I can only manage small chunks of all of these things, broken up throughout the day, but the fact is, I am able to do them again.

I don’t know how long it went on for, but most of my days on Seroquel were spent either in bed sleeping or in my recliner, playing on the computer. I would aimlessly shift between Facebook and a select few other websites I frequent, like Pinterest, some contest sites and game sites where I enjoy solitaire or various slot machines (not for real money). I still do that now, but it’s in between all the other things I’ve found interest in again. I also tend to do a lot of online shopping. Too much, and this can be part of my mania cycle of BD as well. My husband never says anything as long as I record my transactions in our financial system. But I’m doing other things like crafting again, and I’m making cards again for birthdays and stuff, and I want to learn to crochet again (I was just starting to learn and then boom!, totally lost interest when I started having trouble with the Seroquel and didn’t KNOW I was having trouble with it).

Now, here is the list of SEVERE side effects of Abilify. Again, I am bolding the ones I’ve experienced so far:

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe agitation, distress, or restless feeling;
  • twitching or uncontrollable movements of your eyes, lips, tongue, face, arms, or legs (very rare and only for a moment);
  • mask-like appearance of the face, trouble swallowing, problems with speech;
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself;
  • severe nervous system reaction–very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, feeling like you might pass out;
  • low blood cell counts–sudden weakness or ill feeling, fever, chills, sore throat, swollen gums, painful mouth sores (I get inflamed tastebuds), red or swollen gums, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, cough, trouble breathing; or
  • high blood sugar–increased thirst, increased urination, hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, drowsiness, dry skin, weight loss    **oh LOOK! There’s my weight loss, but look what I have to go through to get it!! 🙁

Because I have Type 2 Diabetes, I have to be extra careful in taking this medication. I need to check my blood on a more frequent basis, to make sure I’m maintaining optimum blood sugar levels at all times. I currently inject 14 units of insulin at night only and have done so for about 3 years now. If I notice that my sugars are going quite high on this med, we may have to change that up, and that will be hard for me. I like the benefits of this drug, and I’m not sure I want to start experimenting with other medications.

So…what about you dear reader. Do you have a mental illness? Do you talk about it if you do? Why or why not? Do you know other people who experience prejudice because of a mental illness? How are they treated differently? Do you stand up for them? Advocate for them?

It’s a scary world out there for people with mental illnesses. We never know for sure who our allies are or where we can feel safe talking about our lives and what we experience until we start talking to others. I make myself a safe haven. I talk about my mental illness so others know they can be safe and vulnerable around me. If you need someone to talk to, contact me.  Anything said to me stays private, even from my husband. If you’re on Facebook, look me up. Same with Messenger. Just put the words There Is Always Hope in the subject line, so I’ll know it’s not spam.

If you have anything you’d like to share here, please feel free to add a comment. Thanks for reading and remember…

there is always hope

Furiously Happy – A Tribute

I’m doing a tribute today to an amazing woman named Jenny Lawson. You may have heard of her. She’s an incredible writer and the author of the books “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, “Furiously Happy” & “You Are Here”.

She writes about her own struggles with depression and man, can she write!!! Her sense of humour is incredibly warped and twisted (just the way I like it), she blogs as The Bloggess (thebloggess.com) and there are several Facebook fan groups as well, one of which I belong to. We are her Tribe. We get her. We understand what she goes through and experiences, and even if some of us don’t live with depression, most of us know someone who does. For me, it’s my husband.

I wrote this piece one day when I was feeling overwhelmingly happy that I had found this particular Tribe to call my own. Here goes:
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I live with several health issues that leave me in constant chronic pain: Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis in all my major joints, Myofascial Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Forestier’s Disease, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes Type 2 (on insulin) and Bipolar Disorder. I had Total Hip Replacement on Feb. 7/17 (with my left hip needing to be done as well and possible knee surgery on my right knee later on) and am having a good recovery. I am still in pain, and always will be.

I used to think that my “furiously happy” would come when I no longer lived in pain. Its only been in the last year or so that I’ve come to realize that will never happen. I will NEVER be without pain…that’s just the nature of my body. And when I realized that there would always be the pain, I thought at first “then I will never truly be happy”. I have an amazing husband, whom I love beyond measure. I have 2 grown up kids that I still worry about and three grandsons that I never get to see because of distance. We keep in touch though with social media, and that’s a good thing, but it’s far from being furiously happy.

Because of my health, I had to give up a career that I adored…Admin Support at the Executive level as well as being a Certified Event Planner. I loved my job with every fibre of my being, but came to a point where I physically couldn’t manage it any longer, and with my chronic fatigue, would never be able to manage again. Everything in my life seemed to be about loss…losing a job, losing my hobbies, losing professional relationships, losing friendships, losing mobility, losing at life.

Hubby and I decided in 2013 to make a move to Vancouver Island from Calgary after the weather in Calgary became too much for my body to handle…too cold, too much snow, too long of winters, too icy…too, too, too. We moved here without a job for Ray or even knowing what our apartment looked like – we rented it sight unseen. Slowly, we started making Victoria our home – walking by the ocean, going for coffee or dinner at various places. I soon realized how much I loved it here, even though there were really no friends to share it with (two couples and one girlfriend and that was all that I knew – and even then we rarely saw each other).

One day, I found the Jenny Lawson book Furiously Happy. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I gave the book to Hubby to read and HE has never laughed so much…and he’s not one to show much emotion ever, good or bad. But he laughed and often. From there, I found her website and her other book and then all of sudden, there was THIS group. People like me. People who were struggling and depressed and suffering mentally and physically and I thought to myself “God, thank you for bringing me home”.

Because I realized quickly that I seemed to be good at encouraging other people in their struggles, so I didn’t have to think about mine. I could offer advice or words of comfort, or just the right kitten picture and something would change for the good in that other life. And MY life felt better because of it.
And then I knew, the way that I became Furiously Happy was by being myself and sharing my life with those of you here who needed what I had to offer…a shoulder to cry on, a hug, some understanding, appreciation…whatever you want to call it. I became Furiously Happy because OF Furiously Happy. And now I have my Hubby and my family and my friends and my volunteering AND MY TRIBE!!
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Now, the reason I’m giving a shout out to Jenny today is that she has been undergoing a new treatment for her depression called Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).  It’s described like this: (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.
Jenny started treatment 2 weeks ago…and people…IT’S WORKING!!!!!

I want you to go to her blog and read all about it. If you know anyone who is experiencing major depression in their lives and no other treatment has worked, then this MIGHT be an answer for them too. I admire this woman so much, and I’m so delighted that this is working for her, I simply had to share. Please go check it out, buy her books (you will laugh, trust me) and find your tribe if you haven’t already.

If you live with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, or Invisible Illness of any kind, you can’t go through it alone. You need to find a support group. If you look me up on Facebook, I can introduce you to the Fibro group I belong to. We support everyone who is in pain. And if you’re a fan of Jenny Lawson and want to join the group on Facebook I belong to, use the contact page on the blog here, and let me know.

And remember…

there is always hope